The May 25 Quarterly Report on news coverage by the Project for Excellence in Journalism ("PEJ") reveals that Fox Noise viewers received less information about the Iraq War than did viewers of any other cable news program. (We already knew that Fox Noise viewers were the least informed overall.)
Now, we learn that, according a PEJ study of over 17,000 stories aired or published in the media during the first quarter of the year, Fox Noise viewers received about half the information on Iraq that viewers of CNN or MSNBC received.
The study tells us that, among the three cable news television outlets, coverage of Iraq accounted for about 28% of the news aired on CNN and MSNBC. Over at Fox Noise, their under-informed devotees got about half that -- 15%. But, the Noise channel had to fill that information gap with something. So, the Noise viewers will likely be pleased to know that they received more coverage of Anna Nicole Smith than anyone else in the cable universe. (In fact, Fox Noise gave its fans exactly twice as much coverage of the dead celebrity than the average of CNN and MSNBC.)
More interesting than the gross figures, is the breakdown of the nature of the Iraq coverage. PEJ coded the Iraq news as reports on the policy debate, on events on the ground in Iraq, and homefront coverage.
Overall, the policy debate over the Iraq war accounted for about 12% of the 17,000+ stories reviewed from all media sources (including newspapers, radio, network and cable news). This was more than the combined coverage given to events on the ground and homefront impacts of the war.
Considering that the policy debate on Iraq is just about the most important national debate we have had in at least a decade, covering it seems appropriate regardless where one's seat on the political spectrum may be. On cable news, Fox's coverage of the policy debate was exactly half that provided by the other cable news outlets. One-Half!
This is what happens when a news outlet abandons any semblance of impartiality and invests itself in the outcome of the events that it covers (we examined this from a local perspective last fall in "Trashing the First Amendment"). The Noise ownership and staff were cheerleaders for war and, now that things have gone even worse than most expected, they are eager to fill their time with non-news such as the Anna Nicole Smith nonsense.
Fox Noise defends itself by claiming that they publish a more balanced perspective -- producing more so-called "positive" stories on Iraq than negative. I'm not sure in what universe 3500 dead American kids, tens of thousands maimed American boys and girls, hundreds of thousands dead and maimed Iraqi civilians, and millions of Iraqi forced to leave their homes, produce many positive stories, but so be it.
That doesn't answer why the tiny comparative coverage of the policy debate. The Noise Channel gave about the same amount of time to events on the ground in Iraq as its competition -- it is in the coverage of the policy debate that Noise viewers are the least informed.
After pimping the war and promising rose petals at the feet of Americans, when the shit storm happened, Fox Noise simply retreated, pretending it was all okay.
Calling this travesty a news organization fouls the water.